Yes, I know it is evil and bad of me to start another new fic when I have so many others to finish and I have been neglecting for WAY too long (my character seems to have turned into a Mary-Sue without me noticing..) and etcetera and etcetera. But this is different. Cos I say it is. And this is just a rewrite. So I know exactly what is going to happen. Tragic thing is, so do most of you. But this time there are subtle differences, like this version has one of these new-fangled things called a . Okay, it has a explanation for why there are three harmonixers, why Death Emperor wasn't sticking with the Hyugas, what in the name of cheese-flavoured cthulhu Kaphael even WAS, and all that other stuff. Marianne even has a personality this time. Theoretically. Possibly it'll even end up a Lovecraft crossover this time. (Yay! Shoggoths! Actually, it'd probably have Great Old Ones in it. Who thinks it should be a Lovecraft crossover? Shadow Hearts had enough Lovecraftian stuff in it anyway, I seem to remember someone even did the Elder Sign in battle. Can't remember who, was it Zhuzhen?)
Disclaimer: I don't own Shadow Hearts. Some characters in this I own (actually, do I? Not sure if that goes for Harmonixers, does Sacnoth just get them cos they invented Harmonixing? Not that Sacnoth would want them), some characters simply belong to Sacnoth. And I don't own any of the other good plot ideas that might come into it later, because if anything good turns up in here that'll be the Lovecraft bits.) If this sucks even worse than usual then it is cos my beta reader can't be bothered. Wait. . . It's still my fault it sucks, isn't it? Oh damn. Everything is pretty much historically incorrect. But I can get away with that, can't I? *hopeful*
And there is a *very* brief reference to a Seer somewhere in there, it's nothing to do with Spectral Sight and just means a psychic, only I don't think Samuel would even know what a psychic is, it's much more likely he'd have used Seer'. Just in case there's any confusion.
30 September 1862
Outside, it's dark. A light rain hangs in the air, gradually turning the cobbled streets shiny and wet. Thick clouds obscure the stars and moon. There's a luminous smear on the cloud blanket, showing where the moon is above them. It's late at night, and the streets are almost deserted. A few lone people occasionally pass along them, through the shadows of the tall tenements, doubtlessly up to no good.
There is a narrow little cobbled street, steeply sloping downwards, connecting two wide areas, both busy by day. It's name is Candlemaker Row. At the top of the street is a pub, and a graveyard, Greyfriars. The rest of it is all lined with tenements.
Inside these tenements, it's crowded and busy. The centre of the city is overflowing with people, and space is running out fast. If a family can get one room between them, they're lucky.
About halfway up a tenement near the bottom of the road is a room that would, until a few months ago, have seemed as busy and crowded as any of the others. Now, it's only inhabited by one person. It's dusty, dark, messy. The only furniture is a small wooden bed, one battered-looking table and chair, and a short shelf by the dirty window. On the shelf there are two books; a clearly ancient bible and a little dusty red book with no words on its cover. Beside these books is a ragged doll, made out of old cloth that's now ripped and torn in many places, where the rags that were used to stuff it now show through. Half hidden behind the doll is an oddly-shaped pendant with a glowing red stone set in its centre.
The room's single inhabitant, Samuel Bell, is sitting on the battered chair, staring at the floor. His light brown hair is messy and tangled, it's clear it hasn't been brushed for weeks. There are huge purple circles under his eyes, his skin is pale and marked with a multitude of little scars and lines of worry. His nose has a dramatic bump where it's been broken.
Tonight, like every night, he relives the pain. He can't stop it, it runs through his head of its own accord. He'd do anything not to have to see it, to forget.
Hesitantly, he lets out a long,, slow, silent breath, then picks up an unlabelled bottle of whisky from the table. Without getting a glass- he doesn't have one anyway- he takes a long drink.
In his mind it's five years earlier, 1857. It's November, the sky is a plain, pale grey, ad a thin mist hags around the dark- bricked tenements. Cold breezes buffet the buildings, swirling around the remnants of the autumn leaves in dusty whirlpools where wind catches in the mouths of the wynds.
Then, the room had seemed brighter. . . It had been cleaner, neater, certainly. But after, he found he could hardly bring himself to breathe, let alone tidy up.
He had thought that day would have been happy. It so nearly was. But some cruel intervention of fate had made it awful. . . .
He isn't sure how well he remembers the events. He knows what happened and he knows he remembers the pain; he still feels it. It seems like a nightmare, and it's impossible for him to tell if he's woken up yet.
The memories are garbled, disjointed, little snatches of grief. . .
He hadn't even been there, when it happened. He'd been waiting outside, sitting on the cold stone of the close's steps, listening. He could hear Katherine screaming. . . . When there was silence, then a baby's cries, he'd thought it was over. . .
Then Katherine's mother, she'd been there to help with the birth, came out and. . .
That was when the memories lurched into a horrific, half-hallucinated chaotic mess. Living nightmarish hypnogognia. What happened after that was almost incomprehensible, but. . .
Katherine had died. . .
He had held the baby; a girl; in his arms, hearing the wind beat angry punches onto the windowpanes, forgetting how to cry.
Soon, there had been a funeral, in the graveyard at the top of the road. But stone was expensive, and the only marker he could afford for Katherine was tiny, a tablet only big enough for the initials K.B. . .
. . .Katherine Bell, not even a date. . .
The graveyard was full of ornate, intricately carved, grand mausoleums for the rich. One in particular, a black, domed one topped with a funeral urn, was better built than its surrounding tenements for the living poor.
. . . And Katherine's marker was not even near her body! The stones went where there was room for them, the bodies went where there was room for them, and the two rarely coincided. The marker wasn't put there until the day after the funeral. It lay in the shadows of other gravestones, quiet and near anonymous.
The wind blew a tattoo of rain against the backs of the small knot of mourners. Her body was unceremoniously dumped into its shallow grave. The minister said one short prayer- the poor were always dying. If there was a full-blown funeral for each of them he'd never be out of the bloody graveyard.
Long after the others had left, Samuel stood by the patchwork, uneven grass where Katherine's body lay, clutching baby Annie. She was the only reason for him not to die right then.
Already she had her mother's brown eyes, he could see Katherine every time he looked at her face. He loved her so fiercely that sometimes it hurt. Nothing must ever happen to her. . .
That night, he had a dream. . .
He thought he awoke in Greyfriars Graveyard. It was a little different, though: at the spot where Katherine's body was, there was a large, tall gravestone. Slowly, hypnotically, he walked over and examined it. He'd almost known what it would say.
There was another, smaller stone beside it, with complex carvings. It wasn't there in reality, either. He knelt down to look at it.
The carving showed an awful, demonic thing, with a skull-like head and one horn protruding from its forehead. It had large wings, slightly bat-like, folded around its shoulders. This devil was standing, arms folded, looking grotesquely pleased with itself.
The writing on the gravestone. . . .
Automatically he stood up, feeling cold and empty inside. A black mist was creeping over the tombstones, emanating from a tiny black mausoleum in a part of the graveyard normally closed off by gates. These gates are never locked, but still people rarely enter them. It's known as the Covenanter's Prison, it says that on a little sign attached to the gates.
Samuel looked around, with a feeling someone else was there. Suddenly the air seemed freezing. Above the graveyard, stars were bright and clear in the sky.
e was overcome with a feeling of cold, choking dread and awe. Coming out of that black tomb was the demon in the carving. It walked purposefully, confidently, and looked straight at him- it seemed like into him- with black malicious eyes. It walked towards him, until he was on one side of Annie's gravestone and it was on the other. He was afraid to walk away from it, but he hated to be near it,too. It radiated a chilling, lonely feeling; a feeling of grief and hollow despair. The same feeling he had when he first knew Katherine was dead. The feeling crippled him, he could barely stand up. This thing's evil aura was pushing him down into the cold, corpse-filled earth.
It gestured at Annie's gravestone with a long, thin yet muscly arm. It's got long, clawlike fingers.
This will come to pass.'
The thing's voice sounded like ancient machinery starting up for the first time in a thousand years, a grating clash of metal on mental.
Samuel felt sick then, because the thing sounded as if it knew. As if it knew it was right. He didn't want to admit it though, not to the demon and especially not to himself.
Aye? Are you some kind of fucking Seer?' he spat, the sarcastic, bitter edge intensified by hidden, nagging fear.
It shook its head. But I know this will come true.'
That sounded like a threat. Samuel felt panic and anger building up inside him, but did his best to push it down.
Who are you?' he asked, trying to keep his voice free of emotion.
The demon stared unsettlingly at him, as though sizing him up.
I am your worst nightmare. I am a lot of people's worst nightmare. . .' it sounded proud of this. My name is Death Emperor.'
Samuel had woken up with these words echoing through his mind.
Death Emperor. . .
It was a dream, he knew that, but he was regularly nagged by the suspicion that there was more to it than that, that he would see Death Emperor again. He didn't, though. Not for a few years. He'd let it sink in, put it down to imagination. After all, the name Death Emperor was exactly the sort of name a panicky, grieving subconscious would assign to such a monster. If it was real, it would have been less obvious, he decided, as all the most powerful fears and bereavments come unexpected, disguised.
But it did show up again.
That time was the worst part of this whole thing. That time, when Hell broke open and seeped through into this world.
It was almost five years after the dream and it was summer in 1862. He had remembered, at the start of the year, what it had said on Annie's gravestone.
1857-1862. . .
This is the year. . .
But there hadn't been any reason why it should be the year. Annie was four,, and she seemed fine. . .
It was inevitable really, living so close to the graveyard, that Annie would see a lot of it as she grew up. Samuel hadn't told he anything about her mother- she was only four, for od's sake, and anyway, he couldn't find the words.
When Annie started playing with the other children in the tenements, he noticed that they went to Greyfriars a lot. It was, he supposed, the best place to play nearby, but there was something incredibly morbid about it. Particularly bout the way they would go up too that black, domed tomb, knock on its heavy wooden doors and call Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar! After this childish attempt at resurrection they would run away as fast as they could, just in case Bloody Mackenzie did rise from his coffin this time.
Samuel was worried that there was something more sinister in the graveyard, but again decided it was meaningless. Just the remnants of the dream, still caught up in his head. There were more dangerous things than graveyards,, children were always being stuck down by illness, poverty, real things. It was them he did his best to protect her from.
Samuel next encountered Death Emperor on a warm, suffocating night in early June. The day had been hot, although mottled light-and-dark grey clouds had enclosed the sky. On the horizon, out past the craggy rock on which the castle stood, the sky was a musky, dirty-looking kind of blue, but the clouds had gathered over Edinburgh. The night was thick and dark, and Samuel awoke again to the twisted dream-version of Greyfriars he'd seen before.
A soft breeze was whispering over the grass and through the thick clouds of leaves on the bushes. Each gravestone was perfect black, holes cut into the night. Greyfriars Kirk was also silhouetted, a nucleus to the graveyard.
The rusty, iron gates to the Covenanters' Prison were swinging open, creaking gently back and forth in the breeze. He found himself standing in front of them, looking down the narrow, tomb-lined strip.
Death Emperor emerged from the same tomb as before, Samuel had thought he might. The black mist swirls around the graves in keeping with Death Emperor's breathing, like the ocean's tide.
When Death Emperor spoke it sounded like the end of the world.
Tell me. . . what year is this?''
. . . . Eighteen sixty-two. . .' He couldn't see what else to do but answer.
What has been prophecised for this year?'
Samuel paused, unsure how to answer. He certainly wasn't going to say that Annie will die.
Finally he asked Why are you doing this to me?'
Eventually,' the thing sighed, a tidal wave of black mist, It will be for the good of the whole world. . .'
How does that work then?' he said cynically.
It looked at him again in that unnerving way it had.
It doesn't matter. . .'
Of course it fucking matters!' he yelled at the demon. His immediate impulse was to punch it, but he prevented himself. It looked powerful. He gradually, slowly, filled with dread.
You will come to understand. . .'
He glared furiously at the thing.
Why is it me, anyway? Why do you pick me too do this to?'
It laughed. Mist rippled.
Believe me, if I had had any choice in the matter, I would have chosen someone else. Someone a little more worthwhile. I don't even want to be here at all. I have to, though. It's been this way for years.'
What are you talking about?'
It looked disapprovingly at him.
Don't you know anything about this yet? . . . Clearly not. Do you remember that pendant your mother gave to you before she died?'
A stone talisman on a length of cord, with some kind of strangely glowing stone set into it. She had said he would need it.
It's got a use. You know, it's one of only three? There were originally six, but three are gone by now. You are a Harmonixer. This means you have been cursed by words spoken centuries ago. I was there, when they were spoken. Six people were forced to bear souls, such as myself, inside their heads. And that passed down the generations. These Harmonixers can call upon the souls to fuse with them, in times of need, and the souls can take over the bodies of the Harmonixers, should they feel the need.'
Take over the body. . . No. . . This demon, controlling him? May as well, he thought, give him a death sentence right now.
The pendant,' Death Emperor continued, is an indicator of Malice. It's one of the perks of being a Harmonixer. Everybody gets Malice, but Harmonixers, as a way of making up for everything else, get these. They tell you when your malice is full. When it's reached the highest point it can, the pendant's stone will glow red. You'll have to find a way to clear the Malice, or suffer the consequences. Malice has its own form, for every single person. Yours, I believe, is an indicator of your own self-hatred.' It sounded as if that gave Death Emperor some sick sense of satisfaction.
What'll happen if I don't clear it?' Samuel asked warily.
You'll have to find out the hard way.''
But I still don''t see the point to all this.' He was finding it hard not to lose his temper. Just cruelty for the sake of it?'
There is a point,' Death Emperor said, sounding frustrated. Hearing his voice hurt more than usual. And if it is of any importance to your life, you will come too understand.'
Silence descended on the night. Samuel would have argued more, but he could see it was pointless trying to reason with this bastard. He stood, staring at the demon, wondering how to get out of here. The graveyard had two sets of gates; in this version, both were heavily padlocked.
The black mist seemed to multiply, growing deeper, thicker, cold and evil. Death Emperor spoke Dalian.. It felt like Samuel was having the words carved into his brain with a dagger.
This time, the first time, you are lucky. You get a warning. I must take over your body now.'
When it came to this part, Samuel's memories were clear enough. What that fucking evil fiend did then was worse than anything he'd ever dared to fear.
It had killed Annie.
When Death Emperor took control of Samuel's body, it felt as if his skin was shredded by infinitely sharp talons, and pieced back together, welded with a burning flame. He found he was watching through Death Emperor's eyes- everything had a dark tint to it- and he had no power, no knowledge of what was going to happen next.
He sees the graveyard swirl into blackness around. . . them? him? it?
He had to watch, no means of intervention, as the small room swirled up,s, Death Emperor was standing by the door, Annie was asleep on one side of the bed. . .
He had to watch as Death Emperor reached down towards Annie, one of its thin grey arms went out, terrible claws slashed down. . . .
There was a spray of dark crimson blood. Annie screamed, eyes wide in terror. Samuel tried to punch his way out of this thing's mind but it was impossible. . .
It slashed again, the other way, tattered skin clung to its claws, a trail of ruby droplets fell through the air as it raised its arm.
Annie's screaming had stopped, the place was silent, Death Emperor exhaled a long
sigh of black fog. It washed over Annie's body, sucking her soul away.
As a dawn breeze blew against the tenements, outside in the graveyard the leaves shook and waved, sound built up in the city.
Samuel found himself back in his own body, eyes shut. He hoped, painfully, it was all still a horrific nightmare.
He opened his eyes, and in that realisation his spirit shattered.
Annie's corpse was sprawled on the bed, face and chest rendered unrecognisable by the lacerations. They were deep gouges, still bleeding in the centres of the cuts, though the edges were coated in thick clotted blood, almost black. The bedsheets, wall, floor were all stained scarlet.
Stabbing pains started up inside Samuel's head. It felt like his own voice, yelling at himself.
You did this to her! Fucking bastard! You didn't stop that monster! It's your fault! You fucking evil cunt!He pulled a knife from his pocket, flipped out the blade, and slashed blindly, angrily, at his own arms. Dark blood, exactly the same colour as Annie's, flowed through the rips the knife left on his shirt. It saturated the cloth, pulling it down, it clung to his skin. On the shelf, the talisman had been draining to blue with every cut, rushing back to red the moment he drew the knife away from his skin.
Samuel barely remembered any existence after that. Somehow, he knew, Annie was buried in Greyfriars. There hadn't been anyone at the funeral. There hadn't been any prayers, there hadn't even been a gravestone. She was buried as close to Katherine as was possible, that was all he knew, through some vague recollections of robotically making funeral arrangements.
It had been three months since then. It hadn't stopped hurting. It was a constant, pounding, guilty pain. Samuel was constantly haunted by images of that night.
The pain showed no signs of fading, and, if anything, it got worse. It built up, over time. Resentment, hate, guilt, and through it all, that fierce love for Annie gather like demons in his mind. Whenever it gets dark, he is thrown into that night, lives it over and over again, then arrives back in reality, confused, still hurting, but for a slight second, not knowing why.
Now he finds himself standing by the window seeing a bleak, grey, pale September dawn. The bells of Greyfriars Kirk strike seven.
In his hands he holds the dusty little red book, open. He doesn't know why, or how he came to be holding it. t's a book of poems by Robert Fergusson. Samuel can't read, anyway: it was Katherine's. He remembers a few odd verses, from hearing her read them aloud.
He doesn't know, he doesn't know anything any more.
He just feels the pain, and looks out to the busy streets, now as unfamiliar as any foreign country. His arms are bloodstained, crossed with a tangled mess of scars up to the elbows. In his blind rage, he's still missed the veins that could kill him.
His eyes are blank, dead, bloodshot.
On the shelf, the talisman glows bright red.